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Leaking silhouettes of cross-origin images using a timing side channel

This post originally appeared on Mozilla’s Attack and Defense blog.

This is a writeup of a neat vulnerability I found in Chromium and Firefox that could allow a malicious page to read some parts of an image located on an origin it is not supposed to be able to access. Although technically interesting, it is quite limited in scope—I am not aware of any major websites it could’ve been used against. As of November 17th, 2020, the vulnerability has been fixed in the most recent versions of both browsers.


The time that it takes CanvasRenderingContext2D.drawImage to draw a pixel depends on whether it is fully transparent, opaque, or semi-transparent. By timing a bunch of calls to drawImage, we can reliably infer the transparency of each pixel in a cross-origin image, which is enough to, for example, read text on a transparent background, like this: